USC Environmental Health Centers

Current news, events and research projects of the Environmental Health Centers based at USC

A Day in the Life Program

An air monitoring & storytelling program combining low cost sensor use with photos and videos

A Day in the Life team publishes article on their program

The USC Community Engagement team along with A Day in the Life youth organizers published this article:

Johnston, J. E., Juarez, Z., Navarro, S., Hernandez, A., & Gutschow, W. (2019). Youth Engaged Participatory Air Monitoring: A 'Day in the Life' in Urban Environmental Justice Communities. International journal of environmental research and public health17(1), 93.


Air pollution in Southern California does not impact all communities equally; communities of color are disproportionately burdened by poor air quality and more likely to live near industrial facilities and freeways. Government regulatory monitors do not have the spatial resolution to provide air quality information at the neighborhood or personal scale. We describe the A Day in the Life program, an approach to participatory air monitoring that engages youth in collecting data that they can then analyze and use to take action. Academics partnered with Los Angeles-based youth environmental justice organizations to combine personal air monitoring, participatory science, and digital storytelling to build capacity to address local air quality issues. Eighteen youth participants from four different neighborhoods wore portable personal PM2.5 (fine particles <2.5 µm in diameter) monitors for a day in each of their respective communities, documenting and mapping their exposure to PM2.5 during their daily routine. Air monitoring was coupled with photography and videos to document what they experienced over the course of their day. The PM2.5 exposure during the day for participants averaged 10.7 µg/m3, although the range stretched from <1 to 180 µg/m3. One-third of all measurements were taken <300 m from a freeway. Overall, we demonstrate a method to increase local youth-centered understanding of personal exposures, pollution sources, and vulnerability to air quality.

Click here to read the full article.

A Day in the Life StoryMap

A Day in the Life StoryMap: a detailed look at the projects of A Day in the Life participants. 

A Day in the Life youth program participants present at national conference

Participants of A Day in the Life  presented at the national Citizen Science Conference, in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 16, 2019. 

Building Collaboration and Ensuring Justice in Community-Based Participatory Research: Lessons Learned from California, South Carolina, and Michigan.

Read the story here.

A Day in the Life featured in NIEHS Environmental Factor newsletter

"A Day in the Life" program is supported in part by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In February 2019, the program was featured in NIEHS Environmental Factor newsletter. Read the article here

LA Youth for Environmental Justice Forum features A Day in the Life program

Participants in the first cohort of A Day in the Life gathered at USC Environmental Health Centers on June 30, 2018 at the LA Youth Environmental Justice Forum to share about their projects.

First Cohort of A Day in the Life

Find out more about the first cohort of youth who participated in A Day in the Life.

18 youth participants, from 3 community based organizations, representing 9 high schools, collected 340 hours of data with AirBeam2 monitors. Read more about the program here. See the StoryMap showcasing youth air monitoring maps and photos here.

A Day in the Life Program Description

A Day in the Life program is open for students who identify as a student of color. Due to the hands-on and time commitment of the program, we ask that youth participants be affiliated with and supported by a community based environmental justice organization or environmental/STEM school club faculty sponsor. Program participation requires youth participants to commit to attending all  program workshops and meetings.

Workshop: Storytelling for Social Change

This workshop will provide you with the skills to capture and craft your story, learn camera shots, angles and editing to support your narrative to inform, empower & transform!
Workshop leader: Sandy Navarro, LA Grit Media and South LA community organizer

Activity: Photography and Air Monitoring

Take pictures and make notes of what you see and experience during the course of your day: at home, at school, pollution sources, parks, stores, places you hang out.

Discussion: Reflection and Debrief

Come back together with students from your local organization to talk about your experience recording your day and planning your next steps as you prepare  your story together and edit it,  to share with others.

Sharing: "A Day in the Life" Across Los Angeles

Once all students from the participating organizations have completed their A Day in the Life story over the course of a given program year, participants gather in one space to share their final stories, talk about their experiences, learn from each other about what it means to live in their respective community.

The 2017-2018 A Day in the Life program participants shared their stories at our #LAYouth4EJ event that took place on June 30, 2018.

The 2017-2018 participating organizations and youth led groups included:
Communities for a Better Environment
South Central Youth Leadership Coalition
LA Grit Media
Promoting Youth Advocacy, Mark Keppel High School, Alhambra

The 2019 A Day in the Life program participants included youth members from Pacoima Beautiful who are part of the Youth United Towards Environmental Protection program. 

For more information about A Day in the Life please email Wendy Gutschow.

Resources for participants:

AirCasting and AirBeam Operations Manual: Wendy Gutschow, USC Environmental Health Centers

Other files used during workshops are available on request.

What were the levels of PM 2.5 on a particular day or week in the region? Click here to find out.

Do you want to see what some of the PurpleAir stationary PM 2.5 monitors are reading at a given time? Check out the PurpleAir monitors in the LA area here.

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